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October 29, 2014 / mintcustard

Roasted pumpkin fougasse

Roasted pumpkin fougasse.

Roasted pumpkin fougasse.

I simply adore pumpkin and refuse to waste any food if at all possible so this is how the Roasted pumpkin fougasse came about. I am of the opinion that fresh bread is always best served with company. As a share and tear loaf , this fits the bill perfectly as well as looking so pretty in the middle of the table, before the feeding frenzy that is! You can roast a chunk of pumpkin or squash especially for this dish but why not use up the chunks of pumpkin leftover from carving your jack o’lantern? A bonus treat.

Roasted pumpkin chunks

Roasted pumpkin chunks

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour

320 ml warm water

A cereal bowl full of roasted pumpkin pieces, skin off and chopped into cubes.

1 heaped tsp dried active yeast

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

salt and pepper

(finely sliced red onion and a sprig of rosemary adds to this dish nicely if you have them to hand.)

How to

  • In a jug combine the water, sugar and yeast and allow the yeast to activate.
  • In a big bowl put the flour, oil and salt. When the yeast is foaming nicely add to the flour and combine to form a dough.
  • Tip onto the worksurface and kneed for 10 minutes until elastic and smooth.
  • Place in an oiled bowl, cover (I use a shower cap!) and leavefor 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 220c
  • Add the pumpkin to the dough and combine well. This will knock the dough back. Don’t be too heavy handed as you want chunks of dough visible not a layer of puree in the bread. If you are using the finely sliced onion and rosemary add them now too.
  • Flour a baking tray well. On the work surface push out the dough with your fngertips into a rough teardrop shape. If the dough is too big for your baking tray then use another and make two smaller fougasse.
  • Lay the teardrop shaped dough onto the floured tray, take a pizza cutter or a sharp knife and make cuts as in the picture, one down the centre and two or three where the veins of a leaf would be. Gently pull these open.
Waiting to prove again.

Waiting to prove again.

  • Cover and leave to rise again for 30 minutes,
  • Drizzle with a little oil, season with salt flakes and freshly ground pepper.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and well risen.
  • Devour.

Make absolute sense to add this to October’s Credit crunch munch.

This month it is being hosted by Hannah over at A new addition, taking on this challenge run so ably by Helen at Fuss free flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All

October 28, 2014 / mintcustard

Chicken and pumpkin midweek roast.

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Chicken and pumpkin midweek roast

At this time of year everyone is piling pumpkins into their shopping trolleys. The problem is no one intends on eating them, and people, you are missing a real treat.

To be fair those huge orange pumpkins on offer for 3 pounds a pop are not really grown for flavour but now is the time to investigate the other squashes on offer in greengrocers, on the market stalls and in some supermarkets too. If you really cannot find a Crown Prince or a Turks Turban there are always butternut squashes around.

Beautiful autumn squash.

Beautiful autumn squash.

This very simple one tray chicken dish uses half a butternut squash. Roast the rest though as my next post is a bread recipe that will use the second half, in a pumpkin fougasse.

As the nights draw in, a big tray of roasted vegetables topped with a crispy chunk of chicken is just the kind of comforting dish we all crave. I happened to have some tomatoes and a bunch of asparagus in my fridge. Use what you have, peppers, mushrooms, carrots and parsnips all work well.

Ingredients

1 chicken portioned into 8 pieces (learn to do this, it will save you a fortune)

2 large floury potatoes cut into 1cm slices

1 red onion, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cut into rough dice

2 to 4 garlic cloves, bruised

1 bunch of asparagus

2 strings of tomatoes on the vine.

seasoning

olive oil

How to  (serves 4 takes 1 hr 10 minutes cooking time)

  • Preheat the oven to 200c
  • Take a large baking tray and oil it. Season well with salt and pepper. Scatter over the potato slices. Toss in the seasoned oil until well coated.
  • Bake the potato slices for 20 minutes.
  • Add the butternut squash chunks to the baking tray, add a little more oil and season. Pop in the garlic cloves and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  • Season the chicken pieces with a little salt and pepper. Next lay on the chicken pieces into the baking tray, scatter in the onions and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Finally add in the asparagus, the tomatoes and bake for a final 20 minutes.
  • Check that the chicken is cooked through. Serve with a glass of wine and a roaring open fire.

 

October 26, 2014 / mintcustard

Crisp sugar biscuits, ideal for use with cookie cutters.

The leg bone is connected to the hip bone....

The leg bone is connected to the hip bone….

My name is Becky, and I have a problem with cookie cutters. I know I have confessed this in the past in my Cheesy Hammy Dodgers post. I have a whole drawer full of the things. In my house there are everyday cookie cutters (shapes, letters, numbers etc) and then there are seasonal ones, (Easter, Xmas and Halloween). This causes me a pre issues. As I have so many of the damn things I sometimes forget about certain cutters until it is too late and then I have to wait a whole year before I can forget to use them again!

This doesn’t happen with my Halloween cutters. I love them so much that I’m itching to use them from the start of October.

Halloween cookie cutters

Halloween cookie cutters

As you can imagine, with this many cookie cuttersI have also been able to perfect a foolproof cookie recipe that cuts cleanly, snaps when bitten into and holds an image stamped into it too.

This recipe comes in a cheese version, as in the Cheesy Hammy Dodgers recipe, a vanilla version as taken from Nanna’s quick stamped shortbreads and now in a chocolate version.

Chocolate sugar biscuits.

100g soft butter

25g caster sugar

25g soft brown sugar

125g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

How to

    • Preheat the oven to 160c
    • Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined.
    • Work in the flour, first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands.
    • Knead together until the dough becomes uniform and pliable.
    • Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
    • Lightly dust a worksurface with flour. Roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin. Using your favourite cookie cutters cut out shapes of your choice. Press in any decoration now.
    • Place on a baking tray and pop into the fridge for 10 minutes to set up a little before baking. This makes the imprint  and edges stay sharp when baked.
    • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until just beginning to darken slightly.
    • Place on a wire rack to cool.
    • Ice and decorate as you wish. Store in a tin.
  • Scary biscuits!

    Scary biscuits!

    Does anyone else have a cookie cutter drawer? Which recipe do you use for your cut out cookies and biscuits?

October 19, 2014 / mintcustard

Trick or treat bites – a Halloween party recipe

Trick or treat bites

Trick or treat bites

Why make Trick or Treat bites? Despite the fact that my two are now too big to fit into the cute costumes and have graduated into those outfits that would make Nell Gwynne blush, they still love the idea of Trick or Treating. Nowadays they have to use a much younger relative as an excuse to knock on doors and fill buckets with sweeties. If you do have a Halloween party or just would like a treat rather than a trick then these bites are for you. The treat is in the chocolate, the trick is in the hidden popping candy!

Ingredients

100g shortcake biscuits

100g digestive biscuits

25g rice crispies

125g butter or margarine (melted)

1tbsp cocoa

1 tbsp golden syrup

popping candy (mine is from Asda)

Halloween sprinkles (mine were from Aldi)

100g bar of chocolate, milk or plain as you prefer

6″ by 6″ square tin lined with cling film

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How to …

  1. In a mixing bowl, using the end of a rolling pin, crush the biscuits into crumbs. You could use the fill a plastic bag and whack with a wooden spoon method if you want. You could use a food processor but that takes all the fun out of it. Stir in the rice crispies.
  2. In a large saucepan melt the butter, cocoa and syrup together to make a sauce.
  3. Pour the chocolate sauce onto the biscuit crumbs and rice crispies and combine thoroughly.
  4. Tip the chocolaty rubble into the lined tin and press down. Put into the fridge to set.
  5. Once set melt the chocolate and pour over the biscuit base.
  6. Scatter over the Halloween sprinkles and the popping candy. There will be a little popping set off by the chocolate but not too much.
  7. Refrigerate once more until the chocolate is set. Cut into 16 pieces and serve. This is best served from the fridge as it is only the cold that holds it together.
October 18, 2014 / mintcustard

Pumpkin and sausage pilaf

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These cold evenings really make you want to hunker down, eat comfort food and spend time by a roaring fire. A big steaming bowl of deliciously autumnal flavours hits the right spot.

For some reason or other pumpkins and squashes are only really favoured for their carving qualities in the UK but we are missing out on an wonderful vegetable. I love to roast squashes, simply. Slicked with a little olive oil, scattered with salt and freshly ground pepper I pop chunks of squash onto a baking tray and into a hot oven for 30 to 45 minutes until the squash yields to a knife point and is a litle charred at the edges. Strip off the pumpkin skin and put to one side.

pumpkin and sausage pilaf

pumpkin and sausage pilaf

To make a pilaf simple cook down a finely chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a splash of oil and a knob of butter until soft, golden and sticky. Take about 6 to 8 sausages, pinch and twist them into three or four smaller sausages. Pop them into a pan and brown the sausages off on all sides. Add several handfulls of basmati rice and turn them over in the sausage drippings until the rice becomes translucent. Pour over enough chicken stock to cover, stir and simmer gently until the rice is almost cooked through. If you need to add

Roasted butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash

more stock then please do.  Place the roasted squash on top and turn through the rice. Cook until the rice is done and the squash is warmed through.

Serve with a nice glass of cold white wine and a crisp green salad.

If you feel like leaving out the sausages and using mushrooms instead you can.

October 18, 2014 / mintcustard

The Chocolate Show

I am sure you are all aware that I consider chocolate a food group, such is it’s importance to my well being. I was so pleased then, to be invited to the Preview evening of The Chocolate Show at Olympia. After a day at school, a staff meeting and a trip on the train and overground my day was well and truly made when I put on my badge. One day!

Living the dream!

Living the dream!

The Olympia West venue is new to me but spacious and easy to get to. I have to say I was initially drawn to the event, lured by the Chocolate fashion show.

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That was brilliant, and to be serenaded by Willy Wonka was the fulfilment of a childhood dream, however the chocolatiers and their passion for their products is what has stayed with me.

My hero!

My hero!

Big producers were in attendance showcasing new products. Lindt I am in love with the Lime Intense bar and will be hot footing it to Tesco get a bar of the Roasted sesame dark chocolate bar too.

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Familiar names too, Rococo has me addicted to their Pear william caramels. They are so pretty if I didn’t think I could keep my hands off them I’d have them varnished and made into a necklace!

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Chatting to amazing producers and distributors showed me just how much more chocolate there is in the world for me to taste and discover – result. If you haven’t come across Cocoa Runners I suggest you take a look. I was bowled over by the obvious pride and pleasure they take in sharing the chocolate bars they source for across the globe. All this and they will post them to you too. I know I solved a few Xmas present conundrums with the boxes on their website too.

If I had had time I would have loved to return later in the weekend for the demonstrations and cookery shows too.

Thanks for asking me to the preview, I had a fun and very informative time.

October 13, 2014 / mintcustard

Chocolate sponge and pink custard – the recipe.

It is Chocolate week. As you can see from Mintcustard chocolate is an ingredient I almost regard as an essential. For my recipe to celebrate Chocolate week, I’ve returned to my roots and I’m sharing one of the most iconic school dinners recipes ever. Chocolate sponge and pink custard! If you want more school dinner recipes you can find them here, in my book, Good old fashioned school dinners.

Chocolate cake

3 large eggs – weighed

weight of eggs in butter

weight of eggs in caster sugar

weight of eggs in self raising flour

2 tbsp cocoa

2 tbsp milk

 

Pink custard – one pack of pink blancmange mix

How to

  • Pre heat the oven to 160c.
  • Line a 8″ by 12″ cake tin.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time, with a tbsp of flour after each egg to prevent curdling.
  • Fold in the remaining flour.
  • Add the cocoa and 2 tbsp milk to the mixture.
  • Fill the cake tin with cake batter. Give the cake tin a tap to level the batter.
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Following the instructions on the pack make the pink blancmange but don’t put it in the fridge to set. This is your pink custard!

Cut the cake into rectangles, pour over the pink custard and indulge.

October 12, 2014 / mintcustard

Purple carrot cake. Made with purple carrots!

Grated purple carrot.

Grated purple carrot.

How did a purple carrot cake come about? I’m not one for throwing food away. I also have a really soft spot for heritage vegetables. Last week I spotted a tray of purple carrots in Waitrose and bought them. Then, because life got really hectic last week, I totally forgot about them. When I rediscovered them they were a little bendy and not really good for much. Except making a carrot cake. I was certain it would taste good, my main concern was what it would look like. My concern turned to panic when I posted a picture halfway throught the baking process and a friend said she thought it looked like lentil soup!

Hmm, fair point!

Hmm, fair point!

Despite the fact that when I actually grated the carrots, the variety I had bought was one with an orange core the purple colour was dominant. The carrot shards resembled edible Halloween confetti! To emphasise the purple I used a mixture of caster sugar and soft brown sugar, rather than all brown.  I needn’t have worried about the cake at all. The result was moist, delicious and beautifully flecked with purple.

Purple carrot cake

Purple carrot cake

I used and adapted the BBC Good Food recipe which can be found online here.

If you come across a pile of purple carrots, why not use a few to add a little halloween colour to your baking? Make a purple carrot cake.

October 11, 2014 / mintcustard

An apple pancake breakfast.

Apple pancakes.

Apple pancakes.

When I was little my dad used to make the best apple fritters. They were usually cooked in bacon drippings and sausage fat and sat alongside a full English as a curious accompanyment. He used a simple milk and flour batter, and they were designed tokeep you full up until lunch.

My fruit bowl is full of little apples, I looked at them wondering what to do and they friters popped back into my memory out of nowhere. I really didn’t fancy a full English to go with but a lighter version of the fritters would go down a treat. I decided to use a version of a waffle batter. I wanted to be able to cook the apple through slowly and soften but I still wanted the pancake shell to be crisp and soufleed too.

Here is how I did it. (makes pancakes with 4 large or 8 small eating apples)

Ingredients

125g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

10g caster sugar

240ml milk

1 egg

1 tbsp oil

pinch of salt

Oil and butter to fry

1 large or two small apples per person

icing sugar ond or cinnamon to dust

How to..

  • Sift the flour, salt  and baking powder into a bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre of the ingredients. Break in the egg, pour in the milk and oil.
  • Whisk together until just combined. Don’t be too fierce as the pancakes will become heavy.
  • Peal and core your apples. Cut each apple into 1cm thick rings.
peeled and cored apples.

peeled and cored apples.

  • Place the apple rings into the batter.
  • Heat your large frying pan or pancake pan.
  • Add a splash of oil and a small knob of butter to the pan.
Get the butter nice and hot.

Get the butter nice and hot.

  • Lay the battered apple rings into the pan and turn down the heat to medium as you want the apple to cook and soften whilst the batter becomes a golden brown. This takes 1 to 2 minutes
Once in the pan, low and slow!

Once in the pan, low and slow!

  • Turn over and cook on the other side, again for 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve these apple pancakes with a little icing sugar. Bacon and sausages are an optional extra.

October 10, 2014 / mintcustard

Pork and Co – Canterbury, a must visit for pilgrims and pagans alike.

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I am positive that visitors to Britain must think we have a law that states you should be able to buy a woollen jumper or fudge within 50 yards of a historic monument! I really wish that law could be amended to include a branch of Pork and Co.

I love pulled pork, both in restaurants and I make a version at home but when my daughter told me she had had the “best pulled pork ever” at a food fair in Canterbury I knew she was onto something.

Last week, during an emergency dash to a Uni student in Canterbury to renew a passport, I finally got to try this “best pulled pork ever” for myself. And I have to say the daughter was right. When I saw a whole slow roasted pig laying in the window waiting to be turned into lunch I had a feeling this could be good.

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Just around the corner from the cathedral, juxtaposed by the aforementioned woollen wear shops, fudge factories and tea shops sits this gem.

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For a measly fiver this is what I got. A home made brioche roll, stuffed with freshly pulled pork and topped with a choice of slaws, stuffing or in my case black pudding is finally adorned with a sauce. I chose apple butter and it was tangy enough to cut through the gelatinous stickiness that makes pulled pork so addictive and apply enough to balance the umami of the bun. A strip of crackling snack into that bun somewhere too.

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Also on offer were scotch eggs, sausage rolls and big bags of proper pork scratchings.

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Not that they really need it but they also do a loyalty card, buy five and get the sixth pulled pork roll free. I think that is right but as you can imaging the card is now in the students purse and not mine so I can’t check!

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If you happen to be in Canterbury, hell if you happen to be South of the Thames you should visit Pork and Co. You can also get fudge and a wooly jumper nearby too if you feel the need.

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